Monday, April 29, 2019

Book of the Week: We Set the Dark on Fire

by Tehlor Kay Mejia

Published by Katherine Tegen Books / HarperCollins, 2019
364 pages
ISBN: 978-0-06-269131-6

Age 14 and older

Daniela and her family illegally crossed the border into Medio when she was small. At 12, with forged citizenship papers, she was accepted into the Medio School for Girls, where students are groomed for one of two roles: Primera or Segunda—first or second wife—to the sons of wealthy, politically connected families, roles with origins in their culture’s creation story. Primeras are intellectual confidantes who support their husband’s career; Segundas emotional and romantic companions. Now graduating, Dani has been chosen as Primera to Meteo Garcia, son in a powerful family with Presidential aspirations for him. Dani’s arch enemy at school, Carmen, has been chosen as Mateo’s Segunda. La Voz, a resistance group protesting border regulations and immigrant crackdowns, recently provided Dani with better forged papers, but at a price: They want her to spy for them in Mateo’s household or risk losing all that her parents have sacrificed to give her. Mateo is cold and threatening, while Carmen unexpectedly evolves into a friend, perhaps even someone Dani can trust. As Dani discovers Mateo’s role in increased hostilities against protesters, she struggles to balance protecting her secret against acting as her conscience dictates. She’s also navigating feelings for Carmen that are turning from a tentative bond of trust to strong romantic attraction. Political intrigue set in an unspecified Latinx culture merges with budding romance in a tightly-paced plot that races to its cliff-hanger finale and has strong parallels to tensions in our world today. (MVL) ©2019 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Monday, April 22, 2019

Book of the Week: Ojiichan's Gift

by Chieri Uegaki

Illustrated by Genevieve Simms

Published by Kids Can Press, 2019
32 pages
ISBN: 978-1-77138-963-1

Ages 5-8

Mayumi visits her grandfather in Japan for two months every summer, helping him care for the rock garden he made when she was born. “She learned that moss on a rock was a gift of time … And that clipping shrubs to look like clouds was the best of all reasons to prune.” Back home, her small tin of keepsakes—leaves, pinecones, a stone—helps her remember their time together. Then comes a visit when it seems everything has changed—Ojiichan is in a wheelchair, unable to care for the neglected garden. As her parents help pack his things for a move, Mayumi takes her upset and anger out on the garden until an idea blossoms—a way Mayumi can keep herself and Ojiichan connected to the garden and each other. A lyrical narrative of keen detail and emotional grace offers readers and listeners opportunities to relate and reflect as it reveals how Mayumi’s connection to her grandfather and his garden are things she carries inside her, in addition to inside her small, tangible box of memories. Mayumi is biracial (Japanese/white) in this story supported with lovely watercolor illustrations. ©2019 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Monday, April 15, 2019

Book of the Week: Nikki on the Line

by Barbara Carroll Roberts

Published by Little, Brown, 2019
336 pages
ISBN: 978-0316521901

Ages 10-13

Eighth grader Nikki has played basketball with her best friend, Adria, since they were young. Now, both are on an elite pre-high school league team. Although she isn’t tall, Nikki’s a great shooter, but as the team gradually gels under their wonderful coach, one of the parents of another player has Nikki doubting her abilities. Nikki’s struggle with her flailing confidence, drastically impacting her play, is one dimension of this story. Her changing friendship with Adria, who is spending a lot of time with new teammate Kate, is another. At school, Nikki is becoming friends with Booker, her table partner in science. Booker is adopted. Nikki’s father was a sperm donor. Neither of them wants to do the science assignment of tracing a family genetic trait (an assignment the understanding teacher admits he didn’t think through). After school, Nikki is caring for her high-energy younger brother Sam—canceling his after school care was the only way Nikki’s mom could afford Nikki’s team fees, although Nikki doesn’t want anyone else, even Adria, to know this. These various subplots are wonderfully balanced in a novel about identity and friendship, family and change that is also an action-packed sports story in which Nikki and her teammates’ passion for the game is palpable. ©2019 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Monday, April 8, 2019

Book of the Week: Poetree

by Shauna LaVoy Reynolds

Illustrated by Shahrzad Maydani 

Published by Dial, 2019
32 pages
ISBN: 978-0-399-53912-1

Ages 4-7

“Spring is here at last. / I hope it doesn’t end too fast. / Like a bee I’ll sniff each flower, / And I’ll enjoy each springy hour / (So much).” Brown-skinned Sylvia ties her poem about spring to a birch tree. The next day the tree has written back! At school, not even the teasing of a classmate named Walt can dampen Sylvia’s enthusiasm for writing haiku. “White birch on the hill / Speaks out loud through rustling leaves / Great green Poetree.” On the way home, she pushes her haiku into a knothole on her “poetree.” The next day, a poem folded into a star shape falls from the tree’s branches. “… Can a tree and child be friends? / Your words give me hope.” Believable childlike behavior (and writing) along with moments of humor ground an engaging story that avoids preciousness. Clues provided in the lovely graphite pencil and watercolor illustrations mean young readers and listeners will likely already have noticed what Sylvia eventually understands: The identity of the other poet isn’t the tree at all. For Sylvia, it’s a discovery that starts with disappointment and ends with a new and surprising friend. ©2019 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Monday, April 1, 2019

Book of the Week: ¡Vamos! Let’s Go to the Market

by Raul the Third 

Colors by Elaine Bay

Published by Versify/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2018


40 pages


Ages 3-10

Using a comics format, Raúl the Third tells a story about Little Lobo and his trusty dog Bernabé delivering goods to the Mercado. The eclectic list includes shoe polish, clothespins, wood, tissue paper, paint brushes, and golden laces. Each item is put to use by the vendor who ordered it, while Little Lobo is given something in return for each delivery. The highly visual storytelling is grounded in details of Mexican culture, and full of humor that will appeal to a wide age range. All of the characters are anthropomorphized animals, and many of the items in the Mercado are labeled in Spanish (defined in English in a glossary at book’s end), loosely reminiscent of a Richard Scarry book but with far greater sophistication, and cultural depth. A subplot about a luchador named El Toro, who happens to be Little Lobo’s favorite, comes to satisfying conclusion for Little Lobo and readers alike (who did you think the golden laces were for?). Ink and Photoshop were combined to create illustrations that are full of energy and color. Young readers will want to return to the Mercado with Little Lobo again and again. ©2019 Cooperative Children’s Book Center